At the break: Blackhawks-Avalanche in first round

At the break: Blackhawks-Avalanche in first round
February 8, 2014, 10:45 pm
Share This Post

All the games are in the books prior to the Olympic break.

The Blackhawks' regulation loss to Phoenix on Friday coupled with St. Louis' shootout win Saturday over Winnipeg has allowed the Blues to catch the defending champs in the Central Division standings. It's also given them first place and the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference if the playoffs were to begin now.

The Blackhawks' inability to close games late and get the extra point in overtimes and shootouts has caught up to them. The Blues have gone 3-0 versus the Hawks this season, have four more regulation wins and will have three games in hand when action resumes in late February. That means the Hawks would face third-place Colorado in the opening round of the playoffs, as the top three teams in each division make the postseason, in addition to the two teams with the top point totals in the rest of the conference (wild cards) advancing. Even though Minnesota has one more point than Los Angeles, the Kings would finish third in the Pacific, knocking the Wild into the seventh seed and a first-round matchup with the second-seeded Blues. Top-seeded Anaheim — with three points more than the Hawks with the same amount of games played (60) — would open versus Dallas. The Kings would face San Jose in the two-vs.-three matchup in the Pacific Division playoffs.

[MORE: Blackhawks feeling confident heading into Olympic break]

In addition to their difficulties against the Blues this season, the Hawks have managed to go just 1-1-1 against the Avalanche. While Colorado does not have much playoff experience, it's a team that's played well against the Hawks in recent seasons, especially in the high altitude in Denver. It's there the Avalanche snapped the Hawks' NHL season-opening record 24-game unbeaten streak a year ago.